The MassGOP… is dead.

My fellow Republicans: there is no way that the impact of what happened can be softened by an explanation of circumstances. The Republican brand, on a national level, is now, obviously, completely incompatible with the mainstream political culture of this state. That brand has been created to satisfy constituent groups that are in the South and West of America. It has little to do with us, and we cannot do very much to control it. Brown and Tisei couldn’t get far enough away from it to win, and as polls and advertisements made clear, it was that connection that hurt them most.

It seems clear to me that it is no longer possible for a Republican to win congressional or statewide office. It is not important that you can, in your mind, sketch out the perfect candidate, circumstances, timing, and opponent to conjure up a theoretical win for a high office in this state.

Also, we lost House seats (Rob, you owe me a case of beer next time you’re in Cleveland Circle) and there is no prospect of gaining Senate seats anywhere in the near future.

We are, at this point, a regional party with lots of problems, a brand that is toxic, little money, and not much to lift our spirits. As we are no longer viable statewide, it is clear that the party is dead.


It is time for it to be re-built. I actually don’t think the main task is for us to change our policies or philosophy, you might be surprised to read. For instance, I am proud of my strong convictions about citizens, corporations, and government – convictions that are not going to change at all. The majority of people I know agree with me on these basic things. And you know where I live. (It’s just the Republicans they hate – but not me.)

I think we need to talk about what coalitions will get behind Republican ideas before we talk about party registration numbers. I think we need to become much more inclusive. I think we need to be a lot more tech-savvy. I think we need to become much more about policy. I think we need to unfriend all of the angry voices in our party who build nothing. I think we need to sit down with the Young Republicans and College Republicans and ask them what they want from this country and what kind of Republican party will help them get there. I think we need, more than anything else, to distinguish ourselves from the national GOP.

There will be much recrimination in the days to come. A lot of blaming the voters. A lot of people who always think that if we were just more conservative, people would vote for us. A lot of excuses around circumstances – such as the presidential turnout.

But I think most of you know that there is something fundamentally wrong with the party at a national level, and especially in Massachusetts. We need to put everything on the table and figure out what it means to be a Republican in Massachusetts. That will take time. But we have time now.

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  1. I know the typical response to a disastrous election night is to say what you are saying.  Please resist.

    I do not believe the Republican party is dead, either here or across the nation.  I believe it is not managed by capable and deserving people.  I say that the same way I say it about the church.  So many churches are failing to attract new people with genuine excitement for the truths of Christianity.  It isn’t the fault of the Christian belief system or dogma – it is the fault of those running the church.

    By the same token, I believe in the Republican platform.  I believe we should spend some time reflecting on what it is that makes us ‘real’ Republicans and then articulate that on paper and fight for it.  

    I get emails everyday from local RTCs that are so desperate to get people to show up for a single event.  ‘Come hold a sign’, ‘come join the meeting’, ‘come help us plan an event’ they say.  The response is silence.  For some reason people don’t want to go out and preach about the Republican brand.  They don’t believe in the brand anymore and it is not because the brand has changed, but rather because they are afraid to speak of the Republican brand with pride.  Without changing the party we need to change the tactics.

    We should:

    1. Start rebuilding local town committees. Get younger more positive and excited leaders involved.

    2. Target young people with energy.  No more RTCs with a table of grey haired grannies that can’t stay awake after 8pm.

    3. Meet regularly and support each other.  Encourage each other to attend meetings, have coffee, share dinner, hang out.  Only when we know and respect each other will we be willing to make the extra effort.

    4. Train the workers, and build a team.  Find young people that would be willing to grow into local ‘elected’ positions as a farm team.  Find candidates for school committee, selectman, planning baord, etc.  Start small and grow into the larger positions.

    5. Build the machine.  Get connected with not only social media, but the actual physical machinery of a political team i.e. mailing lists, phone numbers, local activist groups, websites, etc…   It doesn’t seem as though the Republicans want to make the extra effort.

    There is a system of building small teams into powerful groups.  It is Storm, Norm, Conform, Perform.

    Storm – get to know each other and create personal relationships.

    Norm – Find out your common experiences and desires.  Connect on a persona level.

    Conform – Agree to work toward a common goal, and be willing to agree to commitments of time and money.

    Perform – Get the job done.  

    Republicans aren;t good at these things….

  2. While there is no way to spin last night into anything but a failure, I would not say the Mass GOP is dead. Much the same was said about the national GOP after 2008, and it revived itself after just 2 years. The party was arguably in similar or worse shape in 1986 when we had trouble even fielding a candidate for Governor. It also turned itself around and had it’s best year in 1990.

    As John Kennedy said, “When written in Chinese the word crisis is composed of two characters. One represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.”

    Yes, the party is crisis, but how we handle that crisis is what will ultimately seal the party’s fate in Massachusetts.

  3. Clint was right about one thing- when a guy doesn’t get the job done, you gotta let him go.  Bobby McG, that means you.

  4. Everyone switch to Independent from here on out and that’s what all our candidates run as.  Forever more the races will be D vs I.

  5. If this past election tells us anyting, its that it is time for new leadership!! While this applies to the State House and Senate, the Senate has only 4, so a change in power wouldn’t do much. The House though needs to have change!!! The same Minority Leader for how many terms?? If this was a Dem, we would say its time for that person to leave. I hope as we get closer to January a current member of the house steps up!!! What good is Minority leader if there is no real fight put up against the opposition?!

  6. The way forward?

    Maybe what it really needs are more “Fattman Republicans.”

    Ryan Fattman is a young state representative from Sutton, first elected to the Legislature two years ago and reelected last week with 70 percent of the vote despite a strong Democratic challenge. Talk to Fattman about Republican prospects in Massachusetts, and he doesn’t bend your ear with laments about a toxic “brand” or how the national GOP platform is too extreme. He talks instead about liberty, limited government, and low taxes. About how the “R” after his name stands for “reform.” About how Massachusetts is one of the most difficult states to do business in, thanks to a Democratic monopoly that is “intrusive and expensive.”

    Instead of trying to recruit big names to run for office, Fattman says, the state GOP should be focused on the grass roots. The party needs candidates with close ties to their communities and the patience to learn the political ropes. But above all it needs candidates who can explain, with enthusiasm and clarity, what Republicans are offering: a Massachusetts “that empowers its citizens with autonomy and initiative.”

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  10. In 2009-2010 I was so amped to be a Republican. I was so proud of Scott Brown. I made calls, I held signs, went to meetings, met fellow GOP’ers. I knew Scott from both working at the State House for Loscocco, but also from my CR days. He worked hard, and I thought I should return the favor.

    I wonder if MassGOP would consider moving there HQ out of the city?

    Perhaps we should move it to Wrentham?

    Just a thought.  

  11. …but I have listened to many people for more than a decade, talk about how we are going to “organize” our way out of our problems. To do that again is the triumph of hope over experience.

    First, we need to decide what the party is going to stand for, what value proposition we are making to voters, and then, if, and only if, we see that there is a majority of people behind that proposition, that we do all of the things you recommend.

  12. I think the MassGOP’s lack of viability in urban areas is one of our biggest problems. I don’t think retreating to safer areas will do anything but further insulate us from that.

    Also, Boston is the center of money, media, politics, and influence for the state. We must be there*.

    * Of course, with new technologies, I don’t see the point of a physical office on Merrimac Street in any case. We should probably rent a very small space on Beacon Hill and use it for meetings and events. All other clerical/organizational/financial stuff should be 100% online and accessible from anywhere.

  13. Bill –

    You are one of the kinds of guys who should have a seat at the table about what we become. :-)

    The problem with historical citations is that the national party, by every conceivable measure, has kept moving further and further to the right. Every year. Also, it seems that the electorate is a little more to the left every cycle.

    So our crisis now is certainly far worse than previous ones, as the gap between the national GOP and the Massachusetts voter is greater than ever, even if we had our act together on organizational and financial stuff.

    Is this an opportunity? Of course. For instance, the State Committee several weeks ago, considered moving its platform closer to the national platform, in order for us to be 100% pro-life, 100% against immigration reform, 100% against climate change mitigation, etc, etc. So surely that would now seem even more stupid to do, eh?

    So yes, there is opportunity to finally change the party dramatically, despite the objections of so many Republican activists, who would prefer being conservative to winning. There is no point to debating whether or not we get more socially conservative – which has been the debate for a year now. That’s over. (We need to embrace conservatives and moderates equally.) There is no point of hoping that candidates can overcome weaknesses in RTCs. The RTCs have to come first now. There is no point in making this entirely about money. Brown, Bielat, and Tisei all had plenty. There is no point in making this all about the media – Tisei had media support and even a Globe endorsement.

    I don’t think we disagree on the work to be done. I just wanted to post something arresting to make it clear that we need a whole new path, one that we were not already on.

  14. Who knows, there is a MassGOP State Committee meeting on the 13th in Plymouth so if the Chairman were to resign it is entirely possible to happen at or before that meeting this coming Tuesday.

    However, the current Chairman has been in office how long & people – whether or not detractors or supporters – cannot properly understand that Bob’s last name is MAGINN and not “McGinn”?!?!

  15. McGinn was already scheduled to leave. I think his whole tenure was based on the chance that Romney would win and he would be rewarded.

  16. Yes, the national GOP brand is typically a detraction in Massachusetts. This is mostly due to the fact that the Republican Party has lacked an articulate, likable conservative voice for some time. We’ve let the other side define us as evil, rich, white men, and haven’t put up much to either refute that stigma nor posit and alternate narrative. In fact, we’ve mostly reinforced that. Our recent leaders (Weld through Brown) have fallen into the trap of currying favor with the voters by attacking conservative Republicans from other states (Helms and now Akin). However, when guys like Brown and Tisei attack the party to help themselves they hurt every down ticket race. Unless we’re going to rename our party and separate from the national GOP, we need to build up the brand and not just tear it down. As the AngelicOne posted earlier, Brown partially lost because he wasn’t running on anything besides being an “Independent Voice.” What was he going to do for us in D.C.? He was going to be Independent, and that just wasn’t enough. In his first election, he would have lost with the same message; however, he actually had an issue last time that was pretty much thrust upon him: Obamacare. When seeking a full term, his campaign was nearly devoid of issues and instead was more focused on Indians, asbestos, and Boston sports history.

    Secondly, the GOP in Massachusetts keeps losing just as much based upon message as it does based upon lack of a ground game. Why are we so above paying people to campaign for us? The Democrats and Unions do it. However, we keep relying on volunteers and put ourselves at a handicap. Yes, we need to create a 21st century campaign infrastructure, but we also need to compete with proven old-school tactics. The Democrats still rely on canvassing and phone calls, but have modernized and digitized those methods to improve data mining, collection and most importantly utilization of said data. For the local daily in my area, it costs about $4,000 to run a half-page advertisement. That money would be much better spent by paying people to canvass or make phone calls as long as that data is being effectively used.

    These are not things that are unfixable. However, they are not going to be fixed overnight. The next popular statewide Republican could be in the state house right now, serving on a local board or running their company. When it happens, we cannot afford to once again squander the opportunity to build up the party as well as the person instead of building of the person at the expense of the party as we have done for the past 20 years.  

  17. we might learn his name.

  18. I am out of the loop.  I’m just a peon, and not a party bigwig.

    I also agree that his only reason for taking the job was to ride Mitt’s coattails.  It shows: Senate 0-1; House 0-9; State House lost seats.  Oh, and Predident 0-1.    

  19. I agree with what you’ve said, pretty much.

    I do think we should pay people to do different kinds of things. I also can’t stand that candidates come and go and spend a fortune and the party seems to have nothing in its hands after they lose. I have long said that every campaign, should, in some way, make the RTCs stronger after the campaign ends.  In fact, I think candidates should have some kind of “RTC tax” where they give 5% or $1,000 – whichever is less – to build up the RTCs in their district.

    As for the “we let them define us” – I have heard that so often in so many circumstances I no longer know what that means.  I do agree that we shouldn’t be attacking other Republicans to make the electorate feel better, but once in a while it is probably required.

    I think it is far more important to figure out what image we do want to project and then work hard at doing that. I agree completely that Senator Brown spent too much time on what he was not, and not enough time on what he was. Even Tisei didn’t leave me with a strong impression of what he would really do.

    I hope we can all have good discussions on how we might define ourselves as Republicans, and why people will respect that definition.

  20. Patrick –

    In some parts of the state – like where I live – that is already the situation: no Rs on the ticket, but a few Is. It doesn’t work.

    Belief is an important thing. Independence tends to be a negative thing in some ways (I am not those crazy Republicans!) and limits your mainstream appeal.

    No, we need the GOP to re-invent itself around principles that are widely held.  

  21. The new movie Lincoln “makes clear that the parties are, very generally speaking, nearly the opposite of what we understand them to be now, with Democrats urging a return to prewar policies and values and Republicans pressing the case for greater social inclusiveness.”

    I haven’t seen the movie, but I don’t think the Republicans were just pressing “for greater social inclusiveness” but were making a much much more important case about equality and dignity, about the new nation dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Republicans weren’t Libertarians, they weren’t for “state’s rights,” they weren’t materialists or atheists. They had lofty ideals about the Union and how it should protect the people and defend our dignity and equality.

    Today we face a similar materialist belief about people, a similar cynical belief that people can be bought and sold and used by rich people who feel entitled to do whatever they want, and the government shouldn’t be able to stop it. The GOP should cast the Libertarians out of the party and re-proclaim its original mission, to preserve the Union, to protect Equality – “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

  22. That is exactly the kind of talk and candidate we need.  

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